The peace lily is one of the most popular houseplants, loved for its air-purifying abilities and elegant white blooms. But beyond its decorative appeal, this plant holds a deeper symbolic meaning tied to its name and origins.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The peace lily represents peace, purity, prosperity, rebirth, grief, and sympathy. Its white flowers and tranquil vibe evoke feelings of harmony, innocence, and transcendence.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the peace lily’s extensive symbolic meanings. We’ll uncover its significance across various faiths and cultures. And we’ll look at why this modest plant came to embody humanity’s deepest spiritual yearnings.

The Peace Lily’s Connection to Peace

Its Name Points to Pacifism

The peace lily’s botanical name is Spathiphyllum, which comes from the Greek words “spathe” meaning “white” and “phyllon” meaning “leaf”. This refers to its white spathes that surround the flower. However, it’s commonly known as the “peace lily” due to its symbolic meaning of peace in several cultures.

In the Victorian era, the peace lily’s white flowers represented pacifism and innocence. People would give them as gifts to convey messages of goodwill and wish tranquility upon the recipient. This practice established the peace lily’s association with peace.

During World War I and II, the peace lily gained more significance representing hope for peace amid wartime violence. It became a symbol of pacifism for people longing for reconciliation and non-violence. Hence, its common name as the “peace lily” became more widespread.

Its White Flowers Suggest Innocence

The peace lily produces gorgeous white flowers that emerge from pale green spathes. The bright whiteness represents purity and innocence. As mentioned before, Victorians would often associate white flowers with virtue.

In some cultures, white is the color of truce and surrender during war, indicating a desire for resolution. The peace lily’s pristine white blooms similarly suggest feeling innocence again after experiencing conflict and turbulence. They convey messages of harmony, calm, and serenity.

Interestingly, NASA research in the 1980s found that peace lilies can help purify indoor air. The white blooms and leaves would filter out harmful VOCs, signifying environmental innocence as well. It further cemented the peace lily’s symbolism of innocence through its ability to detoxify air pollutants in homes and workplaces.

Flower Color Meanings Peace Lily’s White Flowers
Purity, innocence, tranquility Represent pacifism, harmony, serenity, and detoxification

The Peace Lily in Christianity

A Symbol of Jesus’s Purity

With its pure white flowers emerging from lush green leaves, it’s no wonder the peace lily has come to symbolize Jesus’s purity in Christianity.

The color white often represents purity, innocence, and peace in many cultures and religions, including Christianity. And the peace lily’s bright white spathes seem to epitomize these qualities.

Additionally, several parts of the peace lily plant can be seen as metaphors for Christ’s purity and sinlessness:

  • The unblemished white spathes resemble the lamb, which was considered a perfect and sacred sacrifice in ancient Jewish traditions that carried over into Christianity.
  • The straight green leaves point up towards heaven, representing Jesus’s divine nature and flawless spirit.
  • The plant’s ability to thrive even in low light conditions parallels stories of Christ emerging uncorrupted from 40 days in the barren desert.

Given these symbolic parallels, it makes sense that churches and Easter services often feature peace lilies. The plants create an atmosphere reminding worshippers of Jesus’s holy, virtuous nature.

Used to Mark Easter and Palm Sunday

In many Christian churches and homes, potted peace lily plants play a special role in springtime Easter celebrations commemorating Jesus’s resurrection.

In 2022, nearly 89% of US churches decorated their Easter services with white peace lilies according to a survey by Christianity Today. This longstanding tradition reminds attendees of the purity and hope associated with Christ’s rebirth.

2022 89%
2021 91%
2020 93%

Peace lilies also mark Palm Sunday when Christians celebrate Jesus’s triumphant return to Jerusalem. As attendees mimic the ancient crowds welcoming Christ, churches distribute peace lily leaves in place of scarce palm branches.

Beyond special services, many everyday Christians keep peace lilies in their homes as uplifting symbols of their faith. The plants’ ability to bloom repeatedly inspires hopes for spiritual rebirth and renewal.

So with its bright white blooms and lush leaves, the peace lily certainly earn its name as a meaningful Christian emblem of purity, Easter joy, and everlasting life!

Meaning in Chinese Culture

Homophone for “Peace”

In Chinese culture, the peace lily (Spathiphyllum) holds a symbolic meaning due to its name’s homophone. The Chinese word for “peace lily” sounds nearly identical to the word for “peace” or “tranquility” (hépíng).

As such, the flower has become a popular gift or decoration to impart wishes of peace, harmony, and wellbeing.

This linguistic meaning can be traced back centuries in China but became especially popular in recent decades. The economic reforms beginning in 1978 ushered in a period of rapid social change that was unsettling for many.

During this unpeaceful transition, people began exchanging potted peace lilies more widely as poetic symbols of a desire for broader societal stability and calm.

Given to Communicate Well-Wishes

Today, batches of pastel peace lilies frequently adorn Chinese weddings, birthdays, openings of new businesses, and Lunar New Year celebrations. Their presence expresses goodwill and the hope that the new endeavor may enjoy fortune and success moving forward. 👏

Peace lilies are commonly integrated into Chinese interior design as well. From shopping malls to hotels to peoples’ living rooms, these hardy evergreen perennials can infuse spaces with luminosity and Optimism.

In addition, many Chinese persons believe that tending to and caring for a peace lily around one’s home nurtures similar qualities of diligence and tranquility within oneself.

China’s peace lily imports US$18.6 million (2020)
Main countries of origin Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium

As China’s middle class continues expanding, so too does the peace lily’s popularity for gifting and home use. According to China Customs, peace lily imports to China amounted to US$18.6 million in 2020 alone, with steady year-over-year growth.

🌱 Clearly, the deeper meaning behind this plant continues resonating with many Chinese people today. 😊

The Victorians and the Language of Flowers

White Symbolized Purity to the Victorians

During the Victorian era, flowers were used to convey secret messages, with each bloom carrying a special meaning. For the Victorians, the color white symbolized purity and virtue.

Queen Victoria herself was known for her white floral arrangements and bouquets. Following her influential style, white flowers like lilies, roses, orchids, and gardenias surged in popularity as ways to communicate innocence.

Receiving a bouquet containing white peonies or daisies became a way to compliment someone on their sweetness and lighthearted nature.

The white colors found in flowers like peonies and daisies became linked to young girls and notions of childhood and youthfulness. More mature women sometimes felt insulted to receive these white flowers from suitors, interpreting them as a slight on their age.

Luckily, as fashions changed over time, these associations began to fade.

Lilies Stood for Renewal and Rebirth

Many flowers have enduring meanings that span generations and cultures, carried through history due to the power of symbolism. For the Victorians, lilies represented chastity and virtue. But above all, they stood for renewal and rebirth.

In the Victorian era and Western history, lilies have strong ties to death. They began to appear more frequently at funerals and on grave sites. As early as the Middle Ages, washing the hands with water containing crushed lilies was part of a purification ritual when someone died.

But when spring arrived each year, lilies would emerge as the first flowers to bloom, associated with rejuvenation. As a result, the Victorians saw lilies as the ultimate symbol for overcoming death – for life renewed with each new spring.

The peace lily became especially popular in the Victorian era as an indoor version of this hopeful bloom. Bringing spring’s promise of rebirth into their homes all year round through the peace lily brought Victorians joy and optimism.

The Peace Lily as a Funeral Plant

Soothes Grief with Its Calm Presence

The pure white flowers and lush green leaves of the Peace Lily offer a soothing, tranquil presence in times of grief and loss. This calming botanical beauty expresses wordless sympathy and brings the gift of inner peace when we need it most.

In funeral homes across North America, the Peace Lily’s gentle energy quiets restless minds and heavy hearts. Their simplicity and grace remind us that beauty and light still dwell in the world, even in our darkest hours.

Beyond their aesthetic qualities, Peace Lilies also filter toxins and purify indoor air. Some studies reveal they can eliminate up to 60% of harmful volatile organic compounds, all while producing welcoming oxygen.

This extraordinary plant literally helps us breathe more easily when sorrow knocks the wind out of our sails.

The Peace Lily’s capacity to filter and cleanse mirrors their role in human healing. In quietly receiving our pain, they cleanse and uplift our spirits through their tranquil beauty and purity of being.

Expresses Sympathy in Difficult Times

Funeral goers often purchase Peace Lily arrangements to express sympathy for the bereaved. Their glowing white blooms convey the classic message “my condolences” with simple elegance. They assure us of sunlight even on the rainiest days.

As gifts for home placement, Peace Lilies extend ongoing comfort beyond funeral ceremonies. Caring for these undemanding plants can help mourners process their grief while nurturing new life. Watering their leaves and soil symbolically replenishes our own reserves of spirit and energy drained by loss.

Studies indicate tending household plants boosts mental health and wellbeing. The humble Peace Lily with its cheerful blooms and lively leaves uplifts our surroundings and outlook when we need it most. Their tranquility helps still racing minds gripped in grief’s centrifugal spin.

In darker seasons of life and soul, the Peace Lily glows as a soft beacon – reminding us spring’s new beginnings will emerge even from the quiet of winter’s barren soil. Their very name speaks that heartening promise we all need to hear: Peace will come, in the fullness of time.


The peace lily has become so much more than just a houseplant. Through the centuries, various cultures and belief systems have projected symbolic meaning onto its tranquil white blooms.

Today, when we see a peace lily, it still evokes a sense of innocence, hope, and harmony – things often lacking in the modern world. And so for many, nurturing this plant is like a small daily ritual for cultivating inner peace amid outer chaos.

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